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The AAU to college player pipeline

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Current allegations of corruption apart, this concept is extraordinarily related in college basketball. This text shouldn’t be explicitly concerning the corruption of college basketball however it’s an try to monitor the methods in with private relationships and familiarity play a task in college recruiting.

Gamers leap AAU groups and even circuits very often. Sadly, an in depth record of which gamers dedicated when thanks to which influences, conversations, and extra elements doesn’t, won’t, and certain shouldn’t exist. Additionally, contact with these coaches and relationships are constructed even whereas gamers leap groups. The barely extra complicated model is that a few of these gamers, particularly the highest ones, are free brokers for all intents and functions. The shoe manufacturers, schools, and AAU groups collectively and independently bid for these gamers. There isn’t a listing for that both. Nonetheless, whereas we’ve got little or no exhausting knowledge on the method, utilizing social community evaluation on the outcomes is a minimum of considerably illuminating.

Social community evaluation requires a couple of levels no matter whether or not you’re utilizing UCINET, R, Python, or actually some other software. The crux of correct community evaluation begins with appropriately structuring the info. Community evaluation primarily includes itself of lists of the nodes and matrices.

The lovely mess of a community above is a visualization of all schools with their numerous ties to AAU groups. A minimal of 1 player is required for a tie and the dimensions of the nodes and textual content characterize their centrality to the community. The circles symbolize faculties and bins symbolize AAU groups. Even on first look, Maryland is a superb instance of how a faculty’s centrality might change from a player enjoying for a number of AAU groups. Ricky Lindo performed for a number of AAU groups earlier than he finally arrived in College Park. Some might argue a player resembling Ricky Lindo might make Maryland seem extra central to the community than in reality. In equity, additionally they yielded what many thought-about a prime 10 recruiting class, welcoming six new freshmen to the roster.

Kansas, Kentucky, and LSU are faculties that move the preliminary eye check as central gamers within the community. Faculties like Incarnate Phrase, Central Connecticut, and Sacred Coronary heart might increase some eyebrows that require some deep diving because the evaluation progresses. (Spoiler, two of these three coaches are recent on the scene). One final high-level look finds Harvard and Western Kentucky as a sensical outsider with some affect largely due to the likes of a player just like the Hilltopper’s Charles Bassey and notoriously related coach Rick Stansbury.

The mid-majors imply fairly a bit to college basketball and are chargeable for busting many brackets annually. Nevertheless, the community of all college groups is very large. The intention to scale back as a lot noise as potential whereas nonetheless pretty representing the community requires dissecting every tier, low-major, mid-major, and high-major, independently.

I discovered the financial particulars for as many college-shoe model sponsorship offers as potential however the outcomes confirmed little correlation between a college’s annual cash and eigenvector centrality within the community. Not all faculties disclose their agreements. For all the explanations talked about above and the sake of an entire college-shoe model partnership listing, we’ll solely contemplate the Energy 5 faculties, Huge East, and American, termed ‘Power 7’, in all evaluation going ahead.

 

Above is the community of schools in these seven conferences who share an AAU tie, they each have gamers who performed for a similar AAU staff. One of many apparent takeaways I by no means really thought-about beginning this venture was the regional nature of recruiting. West Coast, Midwest, and Northeast faculties every are comparatively tied to their area. A robust instance of that is the Indiana, Iowa, and Marquette strand on the fitting aspect. One other, barely extra hidden one is the UCLA node on the left, which is tied to Arizona, Utah, and Oregon.

Analyzing the eigenvector centrality of this community, Memphis’ affect juts out at an appalling degree. No shut second exists. For any community, that measure of centrality eye-popping. Digging deeper, Penny Hardaway is the brand new coach at Memphis. Penny Hardaway occurred to personal an AAU group up till his current rent. Since we’re solely analyzing a single yr of knowledge, the community tends to favor newer coaches who should scramble for gamers. Nonetheless, Memphis is a weird outlier.

The remainder of the highest 25 seem to make some logical sense, with Villanova as an honorable point out, ranked No. 26. For these stunned by Duke and Kentucky’s decrease rating, the gamers who now play Duke and Kentucky by no means actually jumped throughout AAU groups like most of the different gamers. Proper, fallacious or detached Marvin Bagley’s father was awarded an AAU staff on the EYBL circuit earlier than attending Duke final season. Clearly, Marvin Bagley is just not going to play for an additional AAU staff. That is one barely extra excessive occasion however permits one to begin to perceive why a number of the prime gamers actually keep put greater than a number of the much less elite gamers.

Earlier than going any additional, it’s important to additionally think about which AAU groups have been most influential in the community. Taking a look at AAU groups’ eigenvector centrality, take a wild guess which workforce’s affect blows the socks off of each different workforce? Workforce Penny. E1T1 with a extra human determine continues to be ranked second. It positioned gamers at Texas Tech, LSU, Oregon, Memphis, and East Carolina. This matches fairly properly contemplating the influential faculties on the record above and explains how a faculty like East Carolina turns into so central.

Additional down, we see long-standing AAU packages who routinely place gamers, comparable to Boo Williams and Workforce Ultimate. The most up-to-date gamers from every program embrace Justin Anderson from Boo Williams and Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo from Staff Ultimate. An AAU group will help promote a younger player (outdoors the highest 100) to discover a faculty. Additionally, AAU coaches might have simply as a lot, if no more, willpower on the place a player commits than the precise college coach.

The shoe manufacturers’ technique primarily targets elite youth basketball gamers and entices them with all of the model has to supply, with the hope of funneling them right into a college additionally they sponsor. After the elite player’s temporary college expertise, the shoe model hopes to leverage the earlier two years of brand name affiliation and belief into an endorsement deal for the now NBA player.

The query is whether or not these grassroots efforts work. Out of 245 college roster spots thought-about Adidas, Nike, and Underneath Armour represented 32, 167, and 46 of these slots, respectively. 20 gamers,12 ranked within the ESPN100, performed for a number of circuits. Together with these duplicates, there have been 265 situations, cut up 87 Adidas, 129 Nike, and 49 Underneath Armour throughout the three circuits. Out of 82 faculties, 57 of the obtainable sponsorship agreements belong to Nike. 15 Underneath Armour and solely 10 Adidas partnerships constitutes the stays of the market. On the opposite finish, gamers stemmed from 121 totally different AAU packages 48 of which have been Adidas, 47 Nike, and 26 groups have been on the Beneath Armour circuit.

There are three causes that is fascinating.

1. Nike is producing much more expertise and instructions the college market however with a smaller or equal pool of gamers in contrast to Adidas.
2. Adidas is clearly not a dominating model within the Energy 7 conferences however is producing extra expertise than its schools can accommodate.
three. Underneath Armour clearly has a scarcity of basketball expertise regardless that their popularity within the soccer panorama has allowed them to characterize extra schools than Adidas.

To carry out a barely deeper degree of study, implementing QAP Regression evaluation compares the 2 matrices to discover the correlation between shoe model and tie on this case. It’s the social community model of a number of regression. Because it seems, 71 % of the time a player began college representing the identical model he did in AAU. A professional argument exists to say Nike owns a lot of the market that the outcomes are skewed. That is true to an extent. Nevertheless, the random chance of any of those gamers attending any faculty continues to be lower than a Nike player attending a Nike faculty. Undeniably, Nike forces the baseline up however they keep the gamers of their system with extra success than the opposite manufacturers relative to alternative.

The prime 100 gamers change little or no from the time they’re 15 till their draft. These are the actual energy gamers everyone seems to be pushing for therefore let’s take a dive. Memphis and Workforce Penny are nowhere to be seen within the prime 10 most influential if we restrict our dataset to simply these gamers. long-standing AAU packages similar to E1T1, Workforce Last, and California Supreme proceed to produce expertise and turn into influential gamers even in a one-year community. Extra importantly, eight of the highest 10 groups are Nike sponsored and the opposite two are on Underneath Armour’s Circuit. In equity, the 11th and 12th-ranked groups are Adidas sponsored and that could possibly be a product of the present warmth Adidas is underneath.

In accordance to ESPN’s 2018 top-100, Duke, Oregon, and Kentucky have been the one faculties to land 5 top-100 gamers. That being stated, most of top-10 most central athletic packages above are storied, although they don’t seem to be all ranked with the highest recruiting courses or the present prime 25. It’d make sense to put previous cash and new cash faculties in two separate courses of affect on this community. This isn’t implying any of those faculties are dishonest or something even shut to it, only a clear metaphor. Previous cash are your SEC and soccer faculties, like LSU and legendary basketball faculties, like Duke. New cash are the facility packages, like Oregon, and faculties constructing on current success, like Boston College, which are within the Energy 5.

Performing Girvan-Newman cluster evaluation, eight totally different clusters emerge. Three of the 5 smaller subgroups present explicitly clear regional ties. The Tech subgroup is an fascinating one that each one match into the Bible Belt the place Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech share the ACC and Texas Tech and Virginia Tech might be thought-about in a reasonably comparable class of success, ranked No. eight and No. 9 on kenpom.com proper now. A regional facet is current in virtually all of the smaller subgroups with ties. The largest subgroup sees the elite tier of packages — Duke, Oregon, and Kansas — function independently of convention and even area. The remainder of the cluster exhibits clear parts of convention affect partnered with regional affect. The ties to Duke are a chief instance of this as we see Florida and Kentucky, each prime members within the SEC, whereas North Carolina St. shares a convention and state with Duke.

Nike nonetheless dominated Adidas and Underneath Armour in carrying the model among the many prime gamers. Adidas positioned 5 of 11 of their top-100 gamers at Adidas-sponsored schools. Nevertheless, three of these have been to Kansas. Underneath Armour positioned solely 4 of 16 athletes at equally represented schools. In the meantime, a mammoth 44 of 53 gamers repped the swoosh all through the circuit and into college. Clearly, Nike is sustaining a a lot larger success fee than its rivals.

For these prime 100 gamers, the brand of their AAU staff determines which emblem they may rep in college about 63 % of the time. That is decrease than the 71 % primarily as a result of the demand for these gamers is a lot greater. Likewise, the manufacturers are fiercely competing for these gamers as they supply the chance to symbolize the model on the highest degree. Additionally, the determine is critical however Nike’s success fee is so nice that it skews the opposite figures.

So in any case this, do these AAU to college pipelines actually work for these elite prospects? Not likely… until you’re Nike.

*Knowledge from Kenpom.com and AAUStats.com partnered with an entire lot of fuzzy matching laid the essential groundwork for this evaluation. In the event you ever contemplate enjoying with AAU knowledge causally, I kindly advise you to keep away from it in any respect prices. At greatest, the identify and statistical (in)accuracy leaves you baffled and in awe all on the similar time. With pink warning tape now clear as day on the wall, the info isn’t good however I personally combed by means of it a whole lot of occasions to the purpose it’s fairly darn shut.

A couple of ultimate compulsory notes: the info accommodates each AAU group a player ever performed for not simply their final group or another particular filter. To make clear, it solely consists of 17U with some 16U groups that performed on the EYBL (Nike), Adidas Rebellion (Adidas), or Underneath Armour Affiliation (Underneath Armour) circuit and it solely takes under consideration new freshman to college basketball rosters for the 2018-19 season who’ve performed AAU basketball. Transfers are necessary however not the primary touchdown spot for a player and symbolize a barely totally different recruiting course of and set of circumstances.

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